Boston has a well-deserved reputation as a great sports town. The Red Sox, Celtics, and New England Patriots have been more successful and popular than the Bruins recently, but local fans are nothing if not loyal -- just ask all those Celtics fans who waited 22 years between NBA championships. Fans are also passionate about college sports, particularly hockey, in which the Division I schools are fierce rivals.
The TD Garden, 100 Legends Way (Causeway St.; tel. 617/624-1000 for events line or 800/745-3000 for Ticketmaster; www.tdgarden.com), is home to the Sports Museum of New England (tel. 617/624-1234; www.sportsmuseum.org), which celebrates local teams and athletes of all ages -- especially the Celtics and Bruins, who play in the building. Exhibits, which are on the fifth and sixth floors of the arena, include Red Sox legend Ted Williams's locker and a penalty box from the old Boston Garden. Visit the website to download an audio tour. The museum is open from 10am to 4pm daily, subject to closures depending on the arena schedule. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and children 10 to 18, free for children 9 and under. Always call ahead; there's no access during events. Note: Visitors may not bring any bags, including backpacks and briefcases, into the arena.
Beyond the "big four" professional sports and dozens of college options, several lower-profile pro franchises call the Boston area home, including two lacrosse teams. The New England Revolution (tel. 877/438-7387; www.revolutionsoccer.net) of Major League Soccer plays at Gillette Stadium on Route 1 in Foxboro from March through October. Tickets cost $20 to $40 and are available through Ticketmaster (tel. 800/745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com). The Boston Blazers (tel. 888/252-9377; www.blazerslacrosse.com) of the National Lacrosse League play at the TD Garden from January through late April. Tickets are $16 to $25. The Boston Cannons (tel. 888/847-9700 or 617/746-9933; www.bostoncannons.com) of Major League Lacrosse play at Harvard Stadium from mid-May through mid-August; tickets cost $15 and $20. The Boston Breakers of Women's Professional Soccer (tel. 877/439-2732 or 781/251-2100; www.womensprosoccer.com/boston) also play at Harvard Stadium, from April through August. Tickets run $15 to $27.
Ho-hum, another World Series championship -- that's something you'll never hear from a true Boston Red Sox fan. The baseball world was still pinching itself over the team's 2004 title, which ended an 86-year dry spell, when the Sox brought home the 2007 crown. "Home" is legendary Fenway Park, and no other experience in all of sports matches watching a game there. Fenway was already selling out well before the 2004 Series, and tickets remain a precious commodity, sky-high prices notwithstanding.
The season runs from early April to early October, later if the team makes the playoffs. The quirkiness of the oldest park in the major leagues (1912), rich with history and atmosphere, only adds to the mystique. Most seats are narrow and uncomfortable, but also gratifyingly close to the field. A hand-operated scoreboard fronts the 37-foot left-field wall, or "Green Monster." Watch carefully during a pitching change -- the left fielder from either team might suddenly disappear into a door in the wall to get out of the sun.
One of the most imaginative management teams in baseball strives to make visiting Fenway worth the big bucks. New sections of seats keep cropping up in previously unused areas of the ballpark, notably including the section above the Green Monster. Just outside the park, Yawkey Way turns into a sort of carnival midway for ticket-holders before games, with concession stands, live music, and other diversions. One good stop is Comcast Town -- sure, the company is promoting its telecom products, but it's also offering free long-distance phone calls and Internet access, HD TVs showing Red Sox programming, and, best of all on a steamy day, air-conditioning.
Practical concerns: Compared with its modern brethren, Fenway is tiny. Tickets are the most expensive in the majors -- a few upper bleacher seats go for $12, but most are in the $25-to-$95 range, with the best dugout boxes topping $300, and that's if you pay face value. They go on sale in December; order early. Forced to choose between seats in a low-numbered grandstand section -- say, 10 or below -- and in the bleachers, go for the bleachers. They can get rowdy during night games, but the view is better from there than from deep right field. "Monster" seats prices top $150, but they're so popular that they're sold by lottery in batches throughout the season; check the website. A limited number of same-day standing-room tickets ($20-$35) are available before each game, and fans sometimes return presold tickets, especially if a rainout causes rescheduling. It can't hurt to check, particularly if the team isn't playing well; visit the website and navigate to "Red Sox Replay." Tip: The Game Day Ticket Sales office, near Gate E on Lansdowne Street, offers tickets that went unsold for some reason. The doors open 2 hours before game time; lining up is permitted 3 hours before that (but not earlier).
The Fenway Park ticket office (tel. 888/REDSOX6; www.redsox.com; T: Green Line B, C, or D to Kenmore, or D to Fenway) is at 4 Yawkey Way, near the corner of Brookline Avenue. Tickets for people with disabilities and in no-alcohol sections are available. Smoking is not allowed in the park.
Play Ball! -- Fenway Park tours (tel. 617/226-6666; www.redsox.com/tours) take visitors around the legendary ballpark. This is an excellent alternative if your budget or schedule doesn't allow for attending a game. Depending on what's going on at the park, the 50-minute tour may include a walk on the warning track, a stop in the press box, and a visit to the Red Sox Hall of Fame. During the season, tours start on the hour daily from 9am to 4pm (or 3 1/2 hr. before game time, whichever is earlier). There are no tours on holidays or before day games. In the winter, hours are shorter and tours may be truncated because of construction (but also cheaper than in the summer); check ahead to avoid disappointment. Admission is $12 for adults, $11 for seniors, $10 for children 3 to 15. Advance individual sales aren't available.
The Boston Celtics raised their 17th National Basketball Association championship banner to the rafters of the TD Garden in 2008 after a 22-year dry spell. The team's rejuvenation made it madly popular even before Shaquille O'Neal signed a deal that runs through the 2011-12 season. Plan far ahead. The Celtics play from early October until at least mid-April; when a top contender or a star player is visiting, getting tickets is especially tough. Prices are as low as $10 for some games and top out at $278 ($750 for floor seats). For information, call the Garden (tel. 617/624-1000; www.nba.com/celtics); for tickets, contact Ticketmaster (tel. 800/745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com). To reach the Garden, take the MBTA Green or Orange Line or commuter rail to North Station. Note: Spectators may not bring any bags, including backpacks and briefcases, into the arena.
The New England Patriots (tel. 800/543-1776; www.patriots.com) were playing to standing-room-only crowds even before they won three Super Bowls in 4 years (2002, 2004, and 2005). The Pats play from August through December or January at Gillette Stadium on Route 1 in Foxboro, about a 45-minute drive south of Boston. Tickets ($65-$169) sell out well in advance, often as part of season-ticket packages. Call or check the website for information on individual ticket sales and resales as well as public-transit options.
Boston College is the state's only Division I-A team. The Eagles, who compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference, play at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill (tel. 617/552-4622; www.bceagles.cstv.com). The area's FCS (formerly Division I-AA) team is Ivy League power Harvard University, Harvard Stadium, North Harvard Street, Allston (tel. 617/495-2211; www.gocrimson.com).
Over Labor Day weekend, the PGA Tour visits the Tournament Players Club of Boston, which is actually in suburban Norton (tel. 508/285-3200; www.thetpcofboston.com), for the Deutsche Bank Championship. Visit www.deutschebankchampionship.com or www.pgatour.com for more information. The senior women on the Legends Tour (www.thelegendstour.com) stop at Plymouth's Pinehills Golf Club (tel. 508/209-3000; www.pinehillsgolf.com) in September. Aside from the pro tours, the Globe and Herald regularly list numerous amateur events for fun and charity.
Tickets to see the Boston Bruins, one of the NHL's original six teams, are expensive ($25-$296) but worth it for hard-core fans. For information, call the TD Garden (tel. 617/624-1000; www.bostonbruins.com); for tickets, contact Ticketmaster (tel. 800/745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com). To reach the Garden, take the MBTA Green or Orange Line or commuter rail to North Station. Note: Spectators may not bring any bags, including backpacks and briefcases, into the arena.
Budget-minded fans who don't have their hearts set on seeing a pro game will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of local college hockey. Even for sold-out games, standing-room tickets are usually available the night of the game. The local teams regularly hit the national rankings; they include Boston College, Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill (tel. 617/552-4622; www.bceagles.cstv.com); Boston University, Agganis Arena, 928 Commonwealth Ave. (tel. 617/353-4628 or 800/745-3000 [Ticketmaster]; www.goterriers.com); Harvard University, Bright Hockey Center, North Harvard Street, Allston (tel. 617/495-2211; www.gocrimson.com); and Northeastern University, Matthews Arena, St. Botolph Street (tel. 617/373-4700; www.gonu.com). These four are the Beanpot schools, whose men's teams play a tradition-steeped tournament on the first two Mondays of February at the TD Garden. Women's games don't normally sell out.
Suffolk Downs, 111 Waldemar Ave., off Route 1A, East Boston (tel. 617/567-3900; www.suffolkdowns.com; T: Blue Line to Suffolk Down, then take shuttle bus or walk 10 min.), is one of the best-run smaller tracks in the country. The legendary Seabiscuit raced here; a marker commemorates his storied career. The live racing season runs from May to November; post time is 12:45pm. The track offers extensive simulcasting options day and night year-round. General admission for live racing costs $2, and general parking is free.
Every year on Patriots' Day -- the third Monday in April -- the Boston Marathon rules the roads from suburban Hopkinton to Copley Square in Boston. Cheering fans line the entire route. An especially nice place to watch is tree-shaded Commonwealth Avenue between Kenmore Square and Mass. Ave., but you'll be in a crowd wherever you stand. The finish line is on Boylston Street in front of the Boston Public Library. For information about watching, ask the staff at your hotel or check the daily papers. For information about qualifying, contact the Boston Athletic Association (tel. 617/236-1652; www.bostonmarathon.org).
On the third or fourth weekend of October, the Head of the Charles Regatta (tel. 617/868-6200; www.hocr.org) attracts more rowers than any other crew event in the country. Some 4,000 oarsmen and women race against the clock for 3 miles from the Charles River basin to the Eliot Bridge in west Cambridge. Hundreds of thousands of spectators line the riverbanks, socializing -- it's hard to overstate just how preppy the whole event is -- and occasionally watching the action.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.